POOR lifestyle habits and an ageing population are being blamed for a predicted doubling of cancer cases in Ireland by 2040.
A new report has warned that the numbers diagnosed with cancer each year will soar from 28,000 to 60,000.
Dr Harry Comber, director of the National Cancer Registry which produced the report, says that skin cancers in both men and women in particular will grow – and for many the damage from over-exposure to the sun is already done, as they will be diagnosed with the disease in the next 15 years.
If we continue to ignore the dangers of the sun, then melanoma skin cancer – the most dangerous form of the disease – will rise by 93pc in women and 134pc in men by 2040.
And the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer, which develops more slowly, could rise by 162pc in women and 157pc in men.
There will be a rise in the number of cases of all forms of the disease, with the exception of leukaemia in men, according to the projections.
Cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract – in such areas as the oesophagus and pancreas – are also expected to increase by more than 100pc.
Dr Comber said lung cancer was rising more rapidly in women than in men. The projected increase of lung cancer is 136pc in women and 52pc in men.
The report said that because more people are diagnosed with cancer and survive, there would be an increasing burden on the health service. We will be living longer and will be older when we develop the disease; while there will also be more demand for expensive therapies, particularly for those with advanced cancer.
It said that the rise in female breast cancer was difficult to project but it was expected to increase by about 130pc between 2010 and 2040, although it could be much lower.
Future trends in prostate cancer rates are unclear – it could be around 104pc but other statistical projections predict it could be as high as 288pc.
Dr Comber said the ageing of the population would be the main factor driving an increase in cancer numbers and that lifestyle risk factors would also have an impact.
"Around 40pc of the total cancer risk in the UK population has been attributed to five lifestyle factors – tobacco, diet, overweight/obesity, alcohol and low physical activity.
"The attributable risks in Ireland are likely to be similar. Smoking prevalence in Ireland is high, although decreasing slowly, and more rapidly in males than females."
"Obesity and overweight are increasing in both sexes, as is alcohol consumption – although there may have been a recent decrease in drinking.
"Levels of self-reported physical activity are low, and have not changed appreciably in the last two decades," he pointed out.
The availability of free population-based screening programmes for breast, cervical and bowel cancers may also bring "some transient increases" in cancer incidence.
People can stem the rise in some of the figures by adopting a healthier lifestyle and reducing their risks of developing cancers, he said.